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Everything You Need to Know About Comic Drawing

By Jon, published on 22/03/2018 We Love Prof - AU > Arts and Hobbies > Drawing > How to Draw Comics

Comic books have a huge history all over the world. From the famous characters who we grew up with to new interpretations today which have almost become cults, every year we discover more about comics.

The world of comics is very dynamic, with unique styles such as Japanese-originating manga which has a huge international following.

Do you find yourself having ideas or dreams of how to create your own comic strip?

It’s a complex project of storytelling, containing many rigorous steps to create a story and characters, and then bring them all to life in your drawings.

We’ve put together the main steps of comic drawing from start to finish…

Drawing a Comic: Start by Laying the Groundwork

Get started with the basic elements Set out your plan by designing your storyboard and characters. Photo credit: eelke dekker on Visualhunt.com

A reflection phase is important before you start drawing your first frame and filling in your comic boards. Unlike a single drawing, a comic book tells a story. So, just as a writer plans out a novel, you must determine several elements before starting your comic, which could even be defined as a graphic novel:

  • Characters: who are they? Think about their physical characteristics, their personality, their living environment, and the links that unite them
  • Tone: there are many types of comics, what will yours read and sound like? Will it focus on humour, adventure, fantasy, erotica, manga? This choice is very important for the comic’s creation, as it will be reflected in the speech bubbles and the drawings.
  • Theme: what do you want to talk about in your comic? What will be the central theme? What message do you want to convey in your story?
  • Plot: This is the thread of your comic. Before you start drawing, you will need to know how the story will begin and end, and you also need to predict the main stages of the action and maybe some twists too. 
  • Format: you want to start with a comic strip layout or template of a few boxes to start, or create several boards so that you can have total freedom in the initial creation stages – it’s up to you to decide how to start! 

You will need all of these elements to sketch out your storyboard – or your scenario – by displaying the thumbnails. To do this, keep in mind that each thumbnail must represent a scene in the story. Once the frame of your comic is clear, you can make the necessary adjustments and start drawing your boards in 2D or 3D (check out our post to see how!).

This step is very important because it also gives you the opportunity to determine the structure of your frames and the overall storyline. Always ask yourself if your frames are all useful and necessary, and if they really add to the comic.

Finally, to make your own comic, it’s important to respect the fundamentals and to give particular importance to a few elements: the frames, the bubbles, and the reading direction.

How Do I Create a Comic Book Character?

At the heart of a comic lies a story, but the characters – and especially the main character – also play an enormous part in the action, so you’ll need to spend some time creating them. But how do you draw a comic character? You will need to take into account all the features we’ve just looked at and put your own spin on them.

1st step: Imagination. Before you bring your characters to life on the storyboard, they will need to take shape in your mind.

For that, you must find some inspiration. Some people will find this quite difficult, whereas others might have too much imagination and will have to restrain themselves from moving in too many directions.

In any case, it’s not just a matter of bringing your characters to life by drawing them, but you must take into account all their dimensions too. You can make a list of your main characters by detailing:

  • The character’s name, age, gender
  • Their physical characteristics: large or small, brunette or blonde, strong or slim; are they pierced or do they have very interesting tattoo designs on their skin?
  • Character traits: the style of each character must reflect their deeper characteristics, so it’s crucial to be as precise as possible
  • Their personal history: what is their past, their current situation, their experiences and skills
  • Their behaviour: determine your character’s specific attitude, reactions, disposition and opinions
  • Their goal: each character has a purpose in a story. Start by asking yourself this question for each of your characters.

To help you define all these elements, simply take a look around you, and draw inspiration from people you know – there are many sources of inspiration.

Once you’ve completed this step, you can move onto learning how to draw your characters. You will have to evolve them in the course of the story according to the situations they encounter.

Think about working on your facial drawing techniques, and also techniques to represent body expression and attitude. Be careful though – inspiration doesn’t mean reproduction. Your characters must remain unique and mustn’t be copies of existing characters.

Don’t hesitate to show your drawings to friends and family, as this can help you gauge how your characters are perceived by others and if they really reflect the characteristics you imagined.

Which Style Should I Use to Draw My Comic?

Experiment with different classic comic styles Major Marvel heroes are referenced in the comic book world. Photo credit: Luis.Vieira on Visualhunt

The important thing to remember when creating a comic is that you should find your own style. Traditionally, there are three main categories of comics:

  1. Comics: Comic books originating from the USA which narrate the adventures of a character, but unlike some forms of comic, the main character is usually the property of a publishing house and there are different designers who take the character forward and continue to create new episodes.
  2. Manga: Born in Japan, this comic is inspired by cartoon characters and is typically characterised by sleek drawings, most often in black and white.
  3. Franco-Belgian BD: BD, or Bande Dessinée, originated in France and developed in Belgium, and is now distributed in the form of albums of in specialised press. BD styles and formats can vary greatly.

Today, artists take advantage of the many influences that the world of comics has to offer so that genres can be mixed up and revisited. Comics aren’t so codified these days, so with a little talent it’s completely possible to create your own unique style.

We see it today in many comics: graphics have evolved and so have the styles of drawing too. This means we can opt for really realistic drawings – which we see prominently in Franco-Belgian BD – for which we need to know how to draw realistically and in perspective, so that each comic book author has talent enough to develop their own style from the basics.

Digital tools and the internet also offer new possibilities in terms of graphics and distribution. Digital comics flourish on the internet without necessarily being edited or published in paper format.

The Main Steps for Drawing Your Comic 

You now have your storyboard and your characters, so all that remains is to move on to the drawing phase!

Do you prefer the traditional pencil and paper method, or the digital approach with a graphic tablet? Or maybe even both! In any case, you can choose the material that works best for you to create your comic.

It’s possible to create a comic entirely on paper, or conversely you can use a computer and drawing software as you would with graphic design, just as if you were designing a great logo.

If you want to draw your comic in pen, start by preparing your comic strips and plotting out your boxes, also called thumbnails. You can then start filling them in one by one. Make sure your frames are well structured and executed to get the best drawings possible.

Be adventurous in your creation techniques You can create comics either with pen and paper or with a graphic tablet. Photo credit: wuestenigel on Visualhunt

You can of course start drawing in pencil so that your lines can be erased until you get the desired result. Inking a comic strip is that stake where the lines are made permanently in pen to obtain a clean finish and hide any underlying pencil marks. Find pencil drawing lessons on Superprof.

If you need to add narrative text for clarification, you will need to put it in a side bar at the top or bottom of a picture box. You will also have to fill the speech bubbles with dialogue, without forgetting the characteristic onomatopoeia of action comics!

When it comes to the colouring and the text contained in your boxes and bubbles, you have two possibilities:

  1. Do everything by hand on your sheet, the good old-fashioned way!
  2. Scan your comic boards to finalise them on a computer. You will then be able to choose a suitable font for the text in the bubbles you have created, and you can ensure the colours are vibrant and polished.

If you choose to scan your boards, make sure you choose a good resolution (600 dpi, for example). This will improve the quality of your drawing on digital media, and you can then work easily from software like Photoshop. It is also an great solution if you want to put your comic online. 

Can I Create a Comic Without Knowing How to Draw?

With online software, you don’t need incredible drawing skills to create a comic.

Even though the best approach to comics is learning to draw, it’s still possible to have fun experimenting with online software while you make you own comic and cultivate your skills. There are all sorts of digital tools and software to try out!

Whether you are an accomplished drawer or a beginner, comics are a really interesting format to work with. Unlike a single drawing, it also allows you to experiment with narrative techniques.

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